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The No-Bump Pregnancy Blues

By Amalah

Hi Amy,

I read you all the time. I know you probably get eleventy trillion questions and I don’t know if this question is really something you can answer but I do need some girlfriend-esque advice and being that I am in a new city, I don’t really have any actual peoples yet. My husband and I are 5 months pregnant, well really he is just along for the ride. My problem is that I don’t look pregnant. I was on the heavier side before the pregnancy, normally wearing anywhere between a size 14 and 16 depending on the store. In my first three months I lost 17 pounds due to morning sickness and my doctor was all down with that but there is still no real outside sign of pregnancy. We just had the ultrasound and little won’t uncross his or her legs is fine and the right size but everyone who knows I am pregnant comments to me every single day about how not pregnant I look. On top of that my mom had three pregnancies all under 16 pounds (WTF?) in weight gain and all of my grandmothers’ pregnancies apparently were under 20 pounds each in weight gain. So I am having a small pregnancy totally eclipsed by my already jolly tummy.

Now this might sound all super awesome and stuff but the truth is it sucks big time. First of all I want peoples to like notice the awesome miracle of life going on inside me but more importantly I would love for people, my husband among them, to like ummm realize that hello 5 months pregnant, going on a five mile hike on a bike trail in midday heat including a section of 600 stairs up a Pittsburgh hill side is not like the best thing ever for me. My sister-in-law and her husband want us to go camping with them in two weekends and my husband already said sure no problem, total mind fart about his pregnant, uncomfortable wife who already has issues sleeping through the night on a real bed and gets up to pee 6 or 7 times on a real toilet.

To add insult to injury we were in a big name baby store this weekend trying to decide on a rocker and we ran into our very thin, petite neighbor who is just at three months. She has a cute little bump and she asked if we were getting things for a friend, I told her no I was pregnant also. We ended up checking out at the same time and my husband helped her carry her bags to the car leaving me to wrangle our brand new rocker box back into the shopping cart and out to the car by myself. When I asked him about it later he pointed out that she is just so pregnant he had to help her, when I reminded him that his own wife is two months more pregnant he said yes but that I was “fine doing it by myself.” Amy how do I get people, once again cough idiot cough husband included, to stop and realize that dude, just cause you can’t see my cute little baby bump doesn’t mean that it isn’t there and that I still have all the same issues of pregnancy as my petite counter parts; like back aches, sleeplessness and unfortunately still some residual morning sickness? Is there like some clothing that I could wear that would really make me look pregnant?

Anything will help because at this point I am afraid I might get all the way to the end and still have to endure people thinking I can still do extraneous activities and that I am really fine and “not that pregnant!”

Ready to stuff a pillow under my shirt

No Pregnancy Bump? No Problem

As a pregnant woman who looks like she swallowed a beach ball, you can probably take my advice with an extra grain of salt, but…most people don’t notice, no matter what your belly looks like. People forget, people are rude, people need constant reminding that certain activities are outright forbidden or just not a great idea or HI, I DON’T WANT TO SPEND 45 MINUTES ON THE HOT CROWDED SUBWAY AT RUSH HOUR JUST TO MEET YOU AND YOUR FRIENDS AT A BAR AND WATCH YOU DRINK ALL NIGHT WHILE I SQUEEZE MY PREGNANT BUTT ON A BACKLESS BARSTOOL AND THAT’S IF I’M LUCKY AND SOMEONE GIVES UP THEIR SEAT AND HAAAAAA, LIKE THAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN.

(Yes. I am including “husbands” here.)

Honestly, I’ve had to awkwardly disclose my pretty obvious pregnancy (“Oh my GOD! You don’t look pregnant at ALL! You can’t even TELL!”) to someone at a social gathering, only to have someone ELSE comment minutes later on how BIG my belly looks and boggle at the idea that I’m not due until October because oooooh, wow.

I know it’s harder for you, since your body isn’t living up to the ripe, round pregnancy of your dreams, so it’s tempting to blame others’ boneheaded reactions on your appearance. But try to believe me when I say that “looking pregnant” — even in the classic celebrity baby bump style — doesn’t curb the thoughtless comments and assumptions about your physical comfort and limitations. Angelina Jolie visited refugee camps while pregnant with twins, what do you MEAN you need help carrying laundry baskets up and down two flights of stairs? GOD.

A Word About Husbands

I would also suggest that your husband’s behavior at the baby store had less to do with your neighbor’s appearance and more to do with the fact that SHE WASN’T YOU. My husband has been through this deal twice, and he’s wonderful, except when he’s…not. I’ve thrown up in more restaurant bathrooms than I can possibly count at this point, all because he insists on reading the menu out loud to me, forcing my brain to combine the idea of roast chicken (I CANNOT EAT CHICKEN, OH MY GOD) and rack of lamb and oh look, honey, they’ve got veal sweetbreads!

And I’ve STILL never forgiven him for that time during my first pregnancy when he ordered tongue. And a plate came out with a…tongue on it. And then he offered me a bite. And then after I bolted to the bathroom to vomit, he ASKED FOR A DOGGIE BAG FOR THE TONGUE AND ASKED ME TO HOLD IT ON MY LAP DURING THE CAR RIDE HOME.

But just watch him turn into the most gastrointestinally sensitive man on earth if we have a pregnant guest at a dinner party. Anything you can’t eat? Anything you’re craving? Chilled sparkling water with lime? Or would you prefer lemon? Is the smell from the grill bothering you?

Really, though, I don’t take it personally. You really can’t take it personally. And you need to stop blaming your own body as the source of something that’s really a universal symptom of universal dunderheadedness. You are his wife, and he probably really does see you as kicking ass at pregnancy, and admires the fact that you ARE staying relatively strong and independent and not at all like his fears and misconceptions about what pregnancy is like. Which may be something along the lines of Victorian women fainting and taking to their beds for the full nine months, with embryos dying left and right if they dared lift anything heavier than their pinky finger. The idea of you camping while pregnant may very well be a story he’ll brag about for years to come, because MAN, he married Superwoman.

Or not. Either way, continue to remind him when he pushes you too far, or forgets to make that second trip to bring the grocery bags in because he assumed you were getting the 42-pack of bottled water and the economy jumbo sized laundry detergent.

As for the rest of the world not noticing you’re pregnant, try not to give it another thought. Wear clothes that FIT and are COMFORTABLE. I’ve found no rhyme or reason to Other People’s Reactions = What I’m Wearing. I’ve worn an empire waist maternity dress (with my arms and hands wrapped around the base of my belly, all maternal and stuff) and had to awkwardly turn down a cocktail. I suppose I’ve had fewer problems when I opt for more form-fitting outfits, but…if that’s not a flattering look for your physique, don’t wear it, especially in hopes of getting a desired reaction from OTHER PEOPLE. You could also, provided you don’t find them annoying or overly precious, wear novelty shirts that announce the pregnancy for you — like these, for example.

(Then again, that’s assuming people will actually read what’s on your shirt. Which still might be expecting a bit too much.)

(And dear God, don’t get a shirt that says “NOT FAT, PREGNANT” or some variation thereof. Come on ladies, let’s just knock that off.)

One last bit of encouragement, which may or may not apply to you — five months IS pregnancy no-mans-land for a lot of women. As big as my belly seemed in my mind at five months, it was NOTHING compared to the “popping” I’ve experienced in the last two or three weeks as I entered month seven. Babies move, organs shift, and your mother’s and grandmothers’ itty bitty pregnancies could very well have been more because of the era they gave birth in rather than some genetic, set-in-stone predisposition. (Women used to be TOLD to keep their weight gain at 15 pounds, for the love of God.) But no matter what happens, your body is doing something wonderful and miraculous, even if it chooses to not shout it from the top of an inside-out belly button. Be kind to it, love it, and — just like you’ll one day tell your child — don’t ever let other people influence how you look at your body.

Don’t forget to visit Amalah’s Weekly Pregnancy Calendar.

Published August 7, 2008. Last updated March 27, 2018.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Ali

    August 7, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    Amy – I am continually amazed by your intelligence and feminism and great sense of humor! Keep it up!

  • Ginny-Marie Case

    August 7, 2008 at 4:18 pm

    Don’t worry about not showing in your 5 1/2 months. I didn’t show…hell – I didn’t even know at 5 1/2 months (I found out a week later). You will wake up one morning and you will show, and you’ll have a couple of months of random people asking you if it’s a boy/girl/your first, and what you plan to name your child.
    I started to show at 6 months, and it’s been a “happy” but endless barrage of people I don’t know all up in my business.
    I say this now…I’m due at the end of August. I have truly appreciated keeping my baby to myself, feeling and watching her move around. There’s a little bit of a selfish side of me knowing this is the one time I won’t have to share her with anyone.

  • Candace

    August 7, 2008 at 4:21 pm

    I was fairly thin but didn’t pop until I was about 22 weeks. Until then, I just looked bloated. That’s the first one. This time I popped early and in a big way. Believe, me, I miss the “is she or isn’t she stares” now that I’ve exchanged them for ridiculously swollen feet.
    If something is too much for the letter writer, she should just tell everyone. Personally, I had the opposite issue the first pregnancy. I felt great and was tired of everyone treating me like a fragile invalid. Just tell people what you do or do not feel up to and then stick to it.
    Sounds like this is mostly an issue with your husband. Assuming he is normally a sweetheart, his lack of empathy could be he could be somewhat in denial (men can be freaked by impending parenthood too, no matter how desired) or dealing with other issues. Talk to him.
    And I’m laughing at the husband’s sudden need to chat food while the wife is in the throes of pregnancy nausea–that was us.

  • MeL

    August 7, 2008 at 4:26 pm

    THAT… was a beautiful piece of advice. Listen to the Amalah on this one, she speaketh wise.
    I’ve also found that the occasional (totally unplanned, but hormones are in the driver seat for this prego) total breakdown into sobs of “I am PREGNANT, I CAN’T DO THAT and PLEASE STOP BEING AN INSENSITIVE ASS!” sometimes have the desired effect that forgetful husband sits up and takes notice, like “oh! Yeah. Huh. Can I give you a foot rub?”

  • CC

    August 7, 2008 at 4:26 pm

    I’m six months pregnant have having a completely opposite (but no less fun) experience. As in, PLEASE STOP LOOKING AT ME. Or, DO NOT TOUCH ME, I DON’T KNOW YOU, aka I AM NOT IN A PETTING ZOO. And, finally, MY FACE IS UP HERE.
    Maybe this is just one of those personal-quirk-amplified situations, where not matter what you encounter it will find a way under your skin?
    Seriously, though. I’m going to start carrying a taser if one more goddamn person reaches through the personal space bubble.

  • Laura

    August 7, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    Amy, thank you for another absolutely beautiful piece on love and acceptance – of ourselves and our sometimes dunderheaded spouses 🙂

  • Liz

    August 7, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    I’m 5 months along w/ #2 and my belly is still pretty small. I just had to tell my yoga instructor in class today, where I wear form-fitting tank tops. On the flip side, we ran into a friend and his new wife the other weekend while running errands and she actually made some comment about “wow, I guess it really does take time to get the baby weight off.”
    As far as the husband not understanding, it was not until our birthing class w/ #1, when the instructor showed a diagram of how everything else in your body smooshes to make way for your uterus that my husband finally got what all my fuss was about. No matter what you look like on the outside, you’ve got lots of smooshing going on inside — I bet you can find a similar picture to show your husband.

  • baltimoregal

    August 7, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    OK, not pregnant, never been pregnant, and that tongue story still made me nauseous!

  • Alexa

    August 7, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    I’m five months along too, and barely have a bump. I lost a little wight with morning sickness and have just now gained it back. I feel like I’ve got a little bump, but honestly no one else really notices. So I get the “you don’t look pregnant” all the time. I just ignore them or say, “I know I’m going to get bigger before it is over.” You could try wearing maternity tops that emphasize the pregnant shape. I know they make mountains out of mole holes for me. Can you feel your munchkin move yet? I feel her move all the time and I focus on how happy that makes me feel.
    My husband is pretty supportive…except when he is also cooking chicken sausages for dinner that he knows I can’t even smell let alone eat…because he just doesn’t “get morning sickness” (his words). I talk about the baby and being pregnant constantly and I insist he carry things now. I make a joke out of being too pregnant to get a glass of water, but I also make it perfectly clear I’m not carrying the heavier groceries in. Before pregnancy I definitely did more of the house work and labor, now I make him pick up the slack. Try quoting from the baby newsletters too. I’m always talking about the size of uterus or some weird bodily change so he doesn’t forget that I’m going through some weird stuff right now. I hope he comes around before you get really fed up with him. 😉

  • Kate

    August 7, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    Hey! Ready to stuff a pillow, are you reading? Because if you are…COME BE MY FRIEND. I WILL COMMISERATE WITH YOU AND APPARENTLY WE ARE IN THE SAME STATE.
    My soon-to-be-husband is also prone to complete fits of JACKASSERY. Like the time he said we’d “meet up with his friends for a few minutes at the bar, 20 minutes tops, seriously!” And we were there for….7 hours. SEVEN REAL HOURS. WHEN I WAS 12 WEEKS PREGNANT AND PUKING EVERY FIVE MINUTES.
    Really, email me. We’ll bash men and have hormonal e-cries together. We’ll be the coolest girls.

  • Jenn

    August 7, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    OMG- this was so me!!! (is still me since I am now 4 months pg with #2 and that whole showing earlier thing? really not happening)
    We are the same size (and I am 5’9″) so it took me a loooonnngggg time to look pregnant and not like I had just eaten too many Oreos.
    It was 18 wks before I was in maternity, and really 6 months before I looked pregnant even to my close friends and family. (My husband could tell if I was naked, but I try not to leave the house that way!) Even when I finally did have that nice round belly, people would say scary things like “Your belly is so small!”, “Are you sure you are 8 months?” and even “Is your Dr worried?” It boggles my mind what people will say to pregnant women. So I get ya, and you certainly have my empathy!
    You know all those empire waist tops that are so popular right now? Wear those – not the maternity sized ones, the regular ones. Also, you might want to try a Bella band or one of those “smoothing” tank tops- they kind of round/smooth your belly into a nice round shape (even if it’s not quite all baby yet!) Good luck!

  • justrun

    August 7, 2008 at 6:54 pm

    That is FANTASTIC advice. Very well done. I’m sending this to two friends now, and keeping it for myself for Someday.

  • Beth

    August 7, 2008 at 10:31 pm

    I have never been pregnant, but I did want to say that Amy, again your advice is great and you really do say exactly what the most supportive and articulate best girlfriend would say. Thanks for that.

  • Karen

    August 8, 2008 at 8:29 am

    Chiming in to agree with Amalah about husbands liking bragging rights re: their superstrong pregnant wives. I was always huge (HUGE!) with my kids, my last was 12 pounds, so at no point did I not look pregnant.
    My husband was extremely solicitous in many ways, including taking over the vacuuming so my delicate flower-like self did not have to carry said vacuum up the stairs.
    And yet…he adores telling the story about how I threw axes at the local Renaissance festival while I was about 8 months pregnant with our second child. He thinks that is so awesomely cool. And he loves telling about how I was lifting heavy rocks in the front yard the day I was due with my first, in a vain attempt to kickstart labor.
    So yeah…when it’s their wife, they love to see strength and everything. Doesn’t mean they don’t care, it just means they’re secretly proud of what a kick-ass lady they married.

  • Susan

    August 8, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    I am sure you will start showing more very soon if you are 5 months. I am on the smaller size of people and still did not start showing very well until about 6 months or so. Eveyone kept telling me that I didn’t look pregnant and say oh my your really that far along.and then one day I woke up and “oh my gawd” I was huge and ended up giving birth to a kid over 9 pounds(I still don’t understand that one). I also agree with Amy about your husband, I wanted to be that super women while pregnant so that my husband would think I was the most awsome person ever,but it got really hard to keep up with. So when I could no longer be that person my husband kept treating me like I was… Reminder to myself for next time, ask for help more often!! Ok, Hope that helps you:)

  • Jenn

    August 8, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    Buck up, Camper! LOL!
    I too was on the bigger side when I got preggers. I NEVER looked pregnant. I just looked big. And then swollen. So, I started announcing it to everyone, everywhere. Any conversation that I had contained some “well, every since I got pregnant…” until people got the point. It helped lots! But you know what helps even more? At the end, when all of a sudden there is this wonderful new person in the world! Congrats!

  • qwyneth

    August 8, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    I am 4 months pregnant and a little smaller than you (size 10-12), and I’m just beginning to show. (I think that’s what it is, though it looks just like a bit of extra tummy fat!) But my mother, who is smaller than me, swears she didn’t show until she was 6 months. I also seem to recall a post over at Mamapop freaking out about how Nicole Kidman looked about 2 months pregnant when she was a full 6 months. We all show at different times, and it doesn’t always have to do with our size. 🙂
    My husband has been pretty good about helping me out so far, but he screws up sometimes. For the most part I’ve dealt with it by being very vocal about what I am experiencing and what I need. I tell him when my back hurts and when I’m tired, and I flat out tell him that I can’t do x, y, or z when he forgets. I’m certainly not suffering in silence on this one. 😉 It probably also helps that, very early on, I got heat exhaustion INSIDE THE AIR CONDITIONED HOUSE while doing chores. That was a pretty good wake up call to both of us that I can’t do what I used to be able to do.
    Good luck, and I hope your husband gets a bit more of a clue!

  • Genevieve

    August 9, 2008 at 7:44 pm

    I empathize so much. I didn’t show until I was about six and a half months pregnant. And even when I was nine million years pregnant I didn’t look that pregant. I would have people ask me, “Are you sure you are that far along?” “No I am just making up random numbers.” I gained about 10 pounds during the pregnancy -if you take away the birth-weight of my son. (despite eating like a pig the second/third trimesters) so it made people doubt me more. The hilarious part is I gave birth to son that was nearly ten pounds at birth. My Mother said I obviously carried the baby in a basket for nine months. And I am 5’6 so it wasn’t like there was a lot of room to hide.
    And like Amy said no matter what size you are people act like eegits. People say and do the most insensitive things. It is a wonder that more pregnant women don’t murder random members of the public.

  • Spicy Sister

    August 10, 2008 at 9:36 pm

    oh I SO could have written this letter!!!! Ugh!
    Thanks for the intelligent, insightful, and funny advice Amalah! You rock.
    “Ready to stuff a pillow”? Just know you are not alone. So so not alone.

  • Danielle

    August 12, 2008 at 9:29 am

    I’m the same size as “Ready to Stuff a Pillow,” am also about 5 months pregnant, and I’m also not showing. I wish people would realize that being told you don’t look pregnant is 1) alarming, especially in a pregnant woman already prone to periodic freak-outs about the health of her baby and 2) an indictment on said freaking-out woman’s ability to grow a baby right. I’m really, REALLY sorry about having to carry that rocker! We just moved (which I don’t recommend during your fifth month, if anyone’s considering it) and I swear I pull something every time I try to unpack a box. Stupid loosening joints and muscles!

  • Colleen

    August 12, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    I don’t think you mentioned your height…but I’ve noticed with my friends that are tall (5’7″ and up), or are long-waisted, even when they are skinny-minny size 2, that they often don’t show until later either because they have a lot reoom in-between their pelvis and their ribcage for the baby to stretch, instead of the baby being forced to stick straight-out (like both of my kids on my short 5’1″ frame).
    And I second Amy’s remark about not relying on how much your mom or grandmother gained. Women were told it was BAD to gain more than 20lbs, and then they were stuck with being hungry and having some nutritional deficiencies.
    Finally…for the bonehead husband…if you’re really not up for camping, please tell him. Just remind him that you’re “Gestating, Here!” and that you’re not up for walking through a dark forest and/or campsite to find a bathroom several times a night, or over-work yourself, etc. Just remind him that you do have a baby to think about and you won’t be doing the baby any good if you’re not feeling well from dehydration, or you injure yourself while hiking. Or, better yet, tell him he will need to accompany you to every single bathroom break you need, for safety reasons due to wildlife and/or crazy people.

  • Jenn

    August 14, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    Whereas my mother gained a total of eight pounds during her pregnancy–note that I weighed nine pounds when I was born, so you really might say she lost weight–and showed the whole time. Bodies are strange.

  • Katy Randermann

    August 15, 2008 at 3:43 pm

    I totally agree, people will be completely oblivious that you’re pregnant even if it looks like you are carrying twins! I popped very quickly with my first pregnancy (11 pound boy), and my husband loved tormenting the hostess’ at restaurants every time they asked if we wanted smoking or non-smoking. He would turn to my belly and ask “baby,do you want smoking?”! Not to mention how many times I was offered wine or beer at company parties, even at the new years party when I was 9 months pregnant!

  • amy

    January 23, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    good story lol =D
    I am 4 months 1 week pregnant and not showin in the slightest and i really want a cump i cant help but think something is wrong i dont wanna tell anybody they will just think am stupid!
    However, i wen to the doctors last week and i heard the babys heartbeat so everything should be finee,
    good advice though.

  • Rheanna

    October 11, 2014 at 12:51 am

    I’m having a similar problem, I’m 7 months and you can’t tell I’m pregnant. I want to have a cute stomach and can’t complain about not showing because every woman gets mad at you for i “count yourself lucky, I was showing at 3 months, ect.” plus my big brother comes to visit often and still sits on me, squeezes me, and beats up on me. I eventually had to smack him upside the head and say I’m 7months pregnant stupid, you can’t rough house with me. 

  • Jamie

    January 26, 2016 at 8:50 pm

    So I’m 6 1/2 months pregnant and this is my first child. But I’m not showing my pregnancy belly at all. My doctor says my baby is healthy so that’s good. But I’m not showing at all I’m scared.

  • Victoria

    February 2, 2016 at 11:56 pm

    Im 5′ 3″ size 16-18 and 21 weeks pregnant with my first child. Still working 45 hour weeks. Still going to college part time. And still (very rudely) beinng scheduled to work overnight shifts because I dont “look pregnant”. Its fristrating because people just look at you like your fat and lazy, when no. Im not lifting that 50lb box out of the freezer and bringing it to you. My back still hurts from that shizz.

    People keep asking me “oh, did you just find out? You must be what, 2 months?”

    No dude. I’m 5 months pregnant with a beautiful baby girl. I noticed because Ive always been used to having a flat belly and small waist. So to me, I look HUGE. But everyone says “you dont even look pregnant!”

    Even my boyfriend said “where is the baby growing, your stomach or your ass?” (I did laugh on that one ;)]